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Can J Psychiatry. 2012 Aug;57(8):457-63.

From sin to science: fighting the stigmatization of mental illnesses.

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Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.


Our paper provides an overview of current stigma discourse, the origins and nature of the stigma associated with mental illnesses, stigmatization by health providers, and approaches to stigma reduction. This is a narrative review focusing on seminal works from the social and psychological literature, with selected qualitative and quantitative studies and international policy documents to highlight key points. Stigma discourse has increasingly moved toward a human rights model that views stigma as a form of social oppression resulting from a complex sociopolitical process that exploits and entrenches the power imbalance between people who stigmatize and those who are stigmatized. People who have a mental illness have identified mental health and health providers as key contributors to the stigmatization process and worthy targets of antistigma interventions. Six approaches to stigma reduction are described: education, protest, contact-based education, legislative reform, advocacy, and stigma self-management. Stigma denigrates the value of people who have a mental illness and the social and professional support systems designed to support them. It creates inequities in funding and service delivery that undermine recovery and full social participation. Mental health professionals have often been identified as part of the problem, but they can redress this situation by becoming important partners in antistigma work.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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